THE LAND OF THE PILGRIM FATHERS
a home from persecutions for persecutors
Charles' Gift. By Hulbert Footner. (Faber and Faber. 10e. 6c1.) Forgotten River, By Christopher Sandeman. ( Oxford University Press, 12s. fid.) Oscar Wilde. A summing-up • by Lord Alfred Douglas. (Duckworth, 6s.) The Locks of Norbury. By the Duchess of Sermoncta. (Murray, 18s.) Pins XII: Priest and Statesman. By Kees Van Hoek. (Burns Oates, 3s. 6d.) Country Lawyer. By Bellamy Partridge. (Harrap, 10s.) Turkistan Tumult. By Aitchen K. Wu. (Methuen, 12s. 6d.)
Reviewed by WILFRID ROOKE LEY THERE cannot be many houses ill America as old and venerable as the house Richard Preston built for himself about 1650 op the shore of the Patuxent river in Maryland. It has been for a quarter of a century in the possession of Hulbert Foottier, the novelist, and he tells us all about it in Charles' Gift.
The frontispiece shows us a plain old house of whitewashed brick with a row of tall windows downstairs and three dormers in the steep roof and a chimney at each end; clearly a full century older than the Georgian-styled residences we think of as " colonial." (And, by the way, the book deserved a map and many more illustrations than a solitary frontispiece).
It was here the House of Burgesses legislated in Puritan days, Richard Preston having been one of the original Puritan settlers in Maryland who were invited there by the Catholic Lord Baltimore so that they might escape from persecution in Virginia, where they had first tried to settle. And what did they do to repay the Catholic for his toleration but drive out his officers and set up a government of their own!
This is typical of the story of American colonisation, on which the book throws a side-light all the more instructive because the author's sympathies are on the whole with the Puritans. We realise how true it is that the Catholic settlement of Maryland was the first essay in religious toleration, and PO far as North America is concerned the only one; and how true the historical wisecrack that the Pilgrim Fathers fled from a land where they were persecuted to find somewhere where they might themselves persecute.
Mr Footner writes lovingly and proudly of his old house, varying the historical account with the cosy, domestic record of his own occupation. There is plenty of humour and observation in the book, which will charm the reader.
ANOTHER book about the American continent is A Forgotten River, by Christopher Sandeman. This describes a three-months' journey through a part of Northern Peru, so little known and so " off the map " that it had to be made, when not on foot, with the most primitive transport, mules, a canoe, a crazy
raft. and with all the adventure attendant thereon.
Mr Sandernan is a distinguished botanist, and his journey was undertaken primarily in search of new plants, but the non-botanical reader will find plenty to interest him. He will be Interested, for instance, in what Mr Sandeman has to say about the Indians. He points out the persistent efforts made by the Popes and the rulers of Spain to protect them from oppression. Thus Philip II decreed that offences against Indians should be more severely punished than crimes against Spaniards —there was more in that monarch than the school history books would lead one to believe—and Pope Paul III pronounced a sentence of major ex-communication against those who should plunder Indians or deprive them of their liberty. All this, as Mr Sandeman says, Is far too little known.
His book will be enjoyed by all who value a straightforward account of travel in a remote and romantic corner of the earth, the diary-form in which it which it is told making it the more actual, and bringing the author's rather astringent humour into full play.
I WAS impressed once again with a 1 sense of waste by Lord Alfred Douglas' Oscar Wilde which, like its two predecessors, is largely an apologia; and, as all reasonable people will believe, an unnecessary apologia. His detractors are dead; their charges or Innuendoes are now fully discredited; the world has long since made up its mind on the merits of an embittered controversy, already nearly half a century old. Surely the whole thing may rest in peace? It has bruised the soul of a true poet, and condemned to a sort of perpetual witness-box one who was born for Parnassian adventure; and literature is the loser.
The book is full of interest, of course, as anything the author has to say about Wilde must be interesting; it reveals once again a mind mellowed by long injustice, fundamentally humble and charitable; but to think that one might be reviewing not his latest apologia but his latest book of poems, or some new comely collection of literary essays! This explains what I mean by waste.
AFASCINATING book of family history is The Locks of Norbury. The Locks were a notable family in the 18th century. They lived at Norbury Park. near Dorking. Their interests were markedly cultural—Sir Thomas Lawrence and the Burneys were among their friends. Links with Italy were easily formed in such a family.
In the 1850s Selina Lock married the Duke of Sant Arpina, and thereafter the princely names of Colonna, Chigi, Misciatelli, Sermoneta are added to the family tree. Selina Lock was the authoress' great-grandmother, to whom she dedicates her book. It has a charming last paragraph. She is addressing her tiny niece, born in 1936, and christened Selina after her great-greatgrandmother. "Perhaps you win be beautiful, kind-hearted and loyal, a good friend and a clever artist, but remember that if you are all these things you probably owe part of them to the Locks" The characteristics of the Locks are summed up in a sentence.
We get a fine sweep of social history in the book, and a valuable side-light, moreover, on the European scene. The authoress writes with distinction, and the publishers have embellished a very personable volume with the most engaging illustrations.
KEES VAN HOEK has taken lvi time by the forelock in writing Pius XII: Priest and Statesman, and he has performed his task with exuberance. One reads him, as it were, to the sound of fanfares. He has set the Holy Father's career to a marche triomph.ale, to which the familiar purple patch of Macaulay at the end makes an appropriate coda.
The publishers are to be congratulated on bringing out so opportune a book at so moderate a price.
ABOOK of good yarns and warm human interest is Country Lawyer, and I strongly recommend it to those who want something out of the way. It is the life story of an American lawyer who set up a practice in a village in New York State some eighty years ago, and ended by becoming lawyer, advocate, father-confessor to the entire neighbourhood. The story is told by his son, who followed him in the practice.
There is a delightful Huckleberry ,Finn atmosphere about the book, and there were moments when I said to myself, " This is better than the movies any day."
I WONDER how many people could 1 immediately " place " Sinkiang, that vast province in the heart of Asia, as big as England. France and Germany put together, even when it is spoken of as Chinese Turkistan. It is the veritable " edge of beyond."
It has been the scene of a terrible Islamic revolt, which was defeated, and two sanguinary internal coups d'etat. Here the Turgan leader, " Black Horse," led his armies of fanatics, and the secret of his present whereabouts is locked in the breast of Stalin.
An eye-witness to these sensational happenings was Mr Aitchen K. Wu, scholar, diplomat, explorer, and a poet into the bargain—he was present as adviser to the Governor—and he tells the story in Turkistan Tumult. Sinkiang may well be the theatre of future clashes, with wider repercussions; and for that reason alone this vivid yet impartial narrative is well worth reading. It pays, incidentally, a noble tribute to the work of the Catholic Mission in Urumchi.
In last week's issue on this page two separate lists of books were printed under the same title, " Conversion of England."
The second half, beginning " Other books recommended are—" is the answer to a reader's query (E. A. K., Germantown, Illinois) asking for a bibliography on Guilds.